Pew Research - President Obama Disapproval Linked to Unemployment

How does the current unemployment rate impact the President's approval ratings? Quite a bit in President Obama's case according to the Pew Research Center for People and the Press.

According to the research, President Obama's situation is the most like Ronald Reagan's, who in his first term presided over a severe recession and high unemployment. Many remember Reagan as a popular President but in 1982, with unemployment at 11%, nearly 50% of the country disapproved of the job he was doing. As employment rebouonded in 1983, so to did his approval ratings.

The chart above shows the trends for all Presidents since Reagan. Note that there seems to be a general correlation between unemployment and disapproval. But the correlation varies significantly by President. G.H.W. Bush saw large spike in disapproval and approval based on the Iraq war and gaffes that showed him out of touch. President Clinton saw declines in approval based on the Monica Lewinsky scandal. And G.W. Bush, after 9/11, just saw a steady climb in disapproval.

According to the research, Obama's first year most resembles Reagan's. The data shows that when unemployment is low, other factors move the disapproval ratings. But when unemployment is high, it becomes one of the key drivers.

So, what does this all mean? Presumably, President Obama sees these numbers and will focus on job creation. There's not a lot the government can do though but hope the economy begins to strengthen. Look for the President to pressure the Fed to keep interest rates low for as long as possible. Look for tax breaks to businesses. Look for the continued growth of the Federal debt and deficit.

In short, be prepared for more government spending, low interest rates, and the eventual resumption of inflation.


Sam Cass
Sam Cass: Sam Cass, MBA, JD, University of Texas at Austin. Always a fan of Leonardo Da Vinci.

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